Archive for March, 2007

Godwin’s law for Catholic discussions

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Jay Anderson, a Catholic blogger who I am not familiar with but was linked to today, has come up with Godwin’s Law for Catholic Discussions.  For those not familiar with Godwins law, it says:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

Additionally the law indicates that since this is not desireable, the individual who resorts to such tactic automatically loses the debate.

Well Jay’s a smart guy and was able to put into words what many of us Catholics who defend the Church have felt for some time.  The sex scandal is used just as aggressively as Hitler in Catholic discussions to divert attention from the issue being discussed.  (As an example of this from my blog, see my complaints about Sean Hannity.)  So he was able to state what I think should from now on be called Anderson’s Law:

As a debate involving the Catholic Church (either a discussion about the Church specifically, or a discussion in which the Church is taking a position) grows longer, the probability of someone mentioning the sex scandal approaches one.

And then there’s it’s corollary: Once such reference to the Scandal is made, whoever mentioned the Scandal has automatically “lost” whatever debate was in progress.So there you have it folks!  A new day in online discussions has dawned with a new law well worth observing.

The future of newspapers online

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

There was an intriguing article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the future of newspapers now that the world is moving to online news.

The author, David Lazarus, is right in a number of respects, including that newspapers are giving away the store for free.  Well, nearly for free.  They do get some ad revenue from their websites.  But what made me want to comment on the article was not the free-store but that he’s missed the underlying issue.

The underlying issue is that in the digital age, the supply and demand curve is all out of whack.  Lazarus’s point is that the first newspaper to charge for their content, is going to be the first to go out of business because every other newspaper will still be free to online readers.  While, that’s one way to put it, I think it is the wrong way to print it.  The better way to put it is that the supply for news articles is so high that it’s driven the price to an unchargably low figure.

See, before the days of the Internet, everyone had no more than 3 or 4 newspapers to choose from.  I had three choices: The SF Chronicle, the SF Examiner and the Oakland Tribune.  If I wanted news, that was where I was going to get it from.  Frankly, sometimes I didn’t like my newspaper, but I was willing to put up with it and pay a reasonable subscription.  Now I can choose between thousands of newspapers.  I can go to the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washinton Times (or Post), or any number of smaller papers from the Sacramento Bee to the Punxsatawney Spirit.  Each paper has something a little different and I want a little bit of each.  It’s not reasonable to expect me to be locked into one.

So, it’s not that I’m not willing to pay a subscription, but I’m not going to pay a subscription that is priced with the expectation that I’m getting all of my news from that paper.  There’s just too much supply out there to expect that of anyone.  I’m not going to pay $15 a month for one paper because frankly one paper no longer has $15 of value with the supply available.  But here is what I am willing to do, I am willing to pay $15 a month for a subscription that would give me access to the majority of the major papers out there.  Or I’d be willing to spend 25 cents to get access to one-day’s worth of articles, but just like my print newspaper, I’d better have access to those articles for more than one day (a week would be a BARE MINIMUM, a month would be more appropriate).  And it better be easy for me do to.  I’m not going to whip out my credit-card every time I want to buy a $0.25 paper.

So Mr. Lazarus, I’ve now given you two suggestions as to how your paper can charge for its content in the Internet age.  The Hearst Corporation (or whatever it’s called these days) needs to start working on how to implement ideas like that.  If the newpaper companies choose not to adapt to new business models, it’s not the consumers fault they’re going out of business.

Along those lines I’ll close with two example from recent business history.  The first is the VHS movie market.  When that came along, Hollywood was really scared that it would undermine their business.  Why would people go to the theater if they could watch movies from the comfort of their home?  As a result they initially priced movies at ridiculous rates like $50.  Just as they feared, home movie collections taped off of HBO and others flourished.  But then the movie industry got wise.  They got into mutually beneficial financial arrangements with rental companies and dropped the price of VHS tapes to a consumer acceptable $15-$20.  The end result is that the VHS revolution in the end was a huge profit center for Hollywood.

The second example is the one Mr. Lazarus brings up himself: Napster and iTunes.  What is missing from his analysis is that Napster’s legal demise did not cause iTunes to succeed, it was effectively the other way around.  Other companies were in the process of working around the issues that Napster failed to address in court while providing music for free (example: bitTorrent) but all of those efforts lost their head of steam once iTunes came on the scene.  Why?

Because people want to do the right thing.

People don’t want to steal.  They’d prefer to buy stuff at a reasonable price.  They want to pay people for their work.  But when they’re not given what they believe is a fair price, then the general populance is going to find another way to get what they want and it may include minor theft.  Additionally, they’ll complain when any government entity cracks down on that minor theft.  But when given a reasonable and appropriate way to pay for what they value, people would far prefer to do it that way.  People want to do the right thing.

So that’s your answer Mr. Lazarus.  Your newspaper and the fellow newspapers out there needs to find a reasonable way to provide people a way to pay for what they want.  They’ll pay for it as long as it’s easy and fair and recognizes the vast choices that exist in news providers because of the Internet.

New mandated vaccine?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

It continues to amaze me how stupid the elected officials are in the state I live in.

There is a new bill currently in committee in California that would require all 7th grader girls to get the HPV vaccine.  HPV is the sexually transmitted virus responsible for vaginal warts and in rare cases causes cervical cancer.  Supposedly 1 out of every 4 young women has the virus.

Amazing.  Just amazing.

Apparently we’ve lost the ability to see the difference between communicable diseases like the Measles or Mumps and a sexually transmitted disease like HPV.  Apparently our youth are such slaves to sex that they are just as incapable of preventing themselves from geting sexually transmitted diseases as they are from getting airborne diseases in a classroom full of sick kids.  Yup, sex is as necessary as air… don’t ya know?

I mean, I don’t even have to get into the more pragmatic issues like the fact that this will be a financial boon for Merek & Co., the holder of the patent on the vaccine for the virus, or that the drug is so new that we’re effectively making ginea pigs out of our daughters before we know what all the side effects are.  Nope I don’t even have to go there because those issues concede that there is merit in considering mandating a vaccine like this.

OK, in case I’m the only one who sees this issue clearly, here’s the deal:

It’s not the government’s job to tell me what to do except in a limited fashion.  Those fashions are limited to areas where my actions will cause the general public harm.  So, if by refusing to get a Mumps vaccine I’m subjecting others to the possibility of getting Mumps by just being in the same room with them, then there’s a reasonable public health issue involved that makes requiring the vaccine acceptible in a free society.  But what about a sexaully transmitted disease justifies a public health concern?

So here’s a quick FYI to the idiot Assemblyman Ed Hernandez who authored the bill and had this to say in the above linked artice:  “If it was any other disease, I don’t think we’ll have this controversy, but because it’s a sexually transmitted disease, I think that’s why it’s so emotional.”

Yes, you’re absolutely right you pathetic numbskull who wouldn’t be in office right now if it weren’t for the extreme gerrymandering you and your pals have inflicted upon the public.  People are upset because it’s a sexaully transmitted disease.  The fact that it is a sexaully transmitted disease changes everything.  It is no longer a public health issue.  For those of us with some modicum of self-control, we’ll never have this disease and for you to tell me that any future daughter I have has to subject herself to an expensive ($360) and, at this time because of lack of testing, potentially dangerous drug that she shouldn’t ever need, makes you a raving lunatic.

What Catholics Owe Evangelicals: An Appreciation

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Over at The Evangelical Outpost, Joe wrote a post about what he appreciates about Catholics.  The first comment was from a Matt Anderson who suggested that Jimmy Akin write a similar post from a Catholic perspective.  Jimmy linked to Joe’s post but did not write the reply Matt had hoped (Jimmy’s a very busy guy).  So, in Jimmy’s place I present a Catholic response:

New forms of worship – Catholics have come up with hundreds of different ways to appreciate God, many of them under-utilized.  However, most of that innovation happened a long time ago.  In more recent times, it has been the Evangelicals who have had the pioneering spirit to find new ways to praise God through music and different forms of prayer service.

In recent years there has been a push in Catholic circles to find new ways to present Christ, particularly to the young.  Being out of practice at it, Catholics have spent a good deal of time following the Evangelical lead and incorporating Evangelical ideas.  For this we should be very thankful.

Use of Technology – All the way back to the invention of the printing press, Protestants have taken a more aggressive approach to using technology to spread the Word of God.  Today Evangelicals are the Protestants who continue that heritage.  I wonder if Catholics would have as strong a presence online, on the radio, on TV and in print if it weren’t for Evangelicals taking the lead in these areas.

Re-Evangelization – Pre-Reformation Catholic Europe had the disadvantage of having “no one to convert”.  All of the Christian formation within Europe centered on raising one’s children.  While there were strong efforts to spread the word of Christ around the globe, in many ways it seems that Catholics lost the ability to evangelize locally.

Evangelicals, as is made clear by the name they chose for themselves, have made conversion a central goal.  In our ever-changing society, we are faced with the reality that Christianity is no longer the majority.  Catholics have struggled to find their evangelical identity.  We owe them a debt of gratitude for all that we have learned from them.

Jesus as man – While the Evangelical notion of a “personal” savior has its issues for us Catholics because of it’s de-emphasis on God as savior for the whole world, that same mindset has also had a positive effect on Catholics.  It has helped many Catholics see God in new light, one that supplements their existing views.

Instead of seeing God in just a very Holy and awe inspiring way, it has helped many Catholics see God in his humanity.  While this has been a constant theme in Lent from the perspective of Christ dying for our sins as a man, the evangelical perspective has broadened that mindset to more aspects of our shared Faith.

Institutional focus on serving the congregation – Evangelical churches are very focused on meeting the needs of their members.  While there has always been a similar theme in Catholicism, the Pope isn’t called “the servant of servants” for nothing, often times the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church has hindered it in delivering on that mission.  Evangelical churches have set a very high bar in this regard and have challenged the Catholic Church to do better.

Just as Joe is not going to swim the Tiber, I too can’t imagine myself ever leaving the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless, there is much to appreciate in the Evangelical approach to Christianity and Catholics should be very thankful to the renewed vigor they’ve brought to spreading the Gospel.

I always knew I didn’t like Sean Hannity…

Monday, March 12th, 2007

…and now I have a reason to boycott him.

This guy has always bugged me.  I mean, even when I’ve agreed with him, the way he has presented topics and the strategies he used to debate people always made my skin crawl.  Heck, just the way his voice sounds bugs me.

But now he’s gone too far:

Before I go on, I should state that I think the priest was holding Hannity to too high a standard that I doubt he’d hold others too.  I don’t think he should deny communion to Hannity.  He could have been more charitable.

But that aside, I’ve lost what little respect I had for Hannity.  What kind of a response is it to a priest questioning how one is presenting the faith to the public to instead acuse him, without cause, of effectively being an accomplice to the priestly scandal?  That’s just ridiculous.  It’s doubly ridiculous coming from a guy who spent half the interview asking the priest if he knew anything about him when clearly Hannity knew nothing about the priest’s work (since the priest was quickly able to reference his website and the work he’s done in regards to the priestly scandal).  But even if this priest had done no work in that area, it’s still not a reasonable response.

In addition his “judge not” and “that’s in the good book” crap was just as ridiculous.  First of all, I’m absolutely sure Hannity has criticized more than one liberal politician for giving that same deflection.  More to the point, there are more than a few references in scripture that speak to the responsibility the Church has to not only generally proclaim the Truth but to call individuals out when they are failing.  In other words, it’s part of a priest’s job to call out sin as sin.

Finally, it’s not an either or choice for birth control or abortion.  There are the options of giving birth or obstaining from sex to prevent conception.  In fact, not only is it not an either or choice, it’s quite the opposite, one leads to the other, as the priest pointed out.  Both are interfering with God’s Will.  Both lead to a disrespect for life.  Once we’re willing to play God with birth control, when our ability to play God falls short, we find new ways to try and play God through abortion.  It’s not a coincidence that abortion was legalized less than a generation after birth-control use became the norm.  And it’s not as like both were discovered recently.  We’ve had the medical technology to do both since the times of the Greek empire.

Or said another way, as a favorite blogger of mine says “If bringing babies into the world is God’s way of saying the human race should continue, birth control is man’s way of saying it should end.”

So, I hearby proclaim that I will change the channel or station whenever I hear Hannity’s voice until he issues a humbly apology for that interview and shows some indication that he is going to take the leaders of the faith he claims to belong to more seriously.

Look and feel changes

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the page looks a little different than it did before. 

I’ve been meaning ever since I switched from the graymatter blog software to wordpress to duplicate the functionality I had that changed the look and feel of the pages to reflect the current liturgical seasons.  I finally got that work completed this weekend.  So now the blog will automatically change colors as we switch from Lent to Easter and also reflect a number of Saints and Holy days.

You’ll also notice on the right sidebar that it tells you the liturgical name for today.  Just below that is a link to another page I’ve just completed that gives you a month-view calendar so you can figure out when the various Church holidays are each year.

Next up on the blog/calendar ToDo list is to add scripture reading links for every day.  I’ve got most of the Sunday readings in digital format, so the work to be done is to get the daily readings and then parse those data files dynamically.

Speak, for your servant is listening.

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

(Note to all readers.  Please read my previous blog post The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away before reading this post.  It is a necessary pre-requisite.)

Some may have wondered why I gave a biblical title to my previous post about losing my reporter job for Cal sports.  The reason for the use of this biblical language for both of these posts is because of the revelation I had last Sunday as I was preparing to be a lector for Mass.

Those who know me well know that as long as I’ve been Catholic, I’ve had what I believe is a calling to be a deacon.  There are a number of requirements for being a permanent deacon (the type I’d be eligible to be).  Many of those requirements have prevented me from applying to be a deacon before 2007, and even this year there is one rule that I’m on the borderline for.

Of course in addition to being eligible, a person must do a lot of pondering and discernment as to whether it is both wise for them and their family in addition to whether God is calling you in that direction.  So for the last 8 years I’ve been praying and discerning.  I’ve talked to existing deacons, others considering the deaconate, friends, family and even a couple of strangers I’ve met at Catholic conferences.

Up until last April, I was fairly certain, in a scared and humbled kind of way, that God was indeed calling me to be a deacon and that I should apply in the spring of 2007, when I first was reasonably eligible for the formation program through the diocese.

Then last April, some minor health issues arose in my family, health issues that will require extra vigilance and dedication for me, likely for the rest of my life.  While this didn’t completely shake my confidence, it did cause me to re-analyze my thoughts on the subject.

The month of November then proved to be a decisive one in this regard.  The reporter job was a minor but significant strain on my family life and it was also a time of bad news at my full-time job.  So when December came around and with it the season of Advent, I spent a great deal of time praying about what to do about being a deacon.  By the end of Advent I had decided to put off being a deacon for a handful of years.

The way I saw it, there was just too much on my plate to add the deacon formation process at this time.  Between family, work, the reporter job and possibly having more children, I just couldn’t see committing myself to being a deacon at this point.  While the calling was still strong, it seemed that I was being pulled in other directions for the time being.  God, it seemed to me, was telling me that it was not quite time for me to be a deacon.

Which brings me back to last Sunday.

I was at home preparing to be a lector for Sunday Mass.  It was a rare morning of silence because my wife and boys were visiting her family for the weekend while I was at home fulfilling other commitments like being a lector.

I had already spent most of the weekend thinking about what my next move was now that I had lost the reporter job.  Focusing on having the strength to proclaim the reading from Philippians just as St. Paul would have wanted it, I thought of the other times I had been asked to proclaim with strength.

At which point my mind snapped to the time I had read at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral.  The reading was from first Samuel and it was a passage that, both because of the setting at the Cathedral and the nature of the passage, required that I be able to speak with strength the words of God, a prophet and a future prophet in formation.

Samuel, the prophet in formation in the passage, was unsure of the calling of God because, as it says in the passage, “Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet” (1 Samuel 3:7). By the end of the passage, Samuel had been instructed by Eli to properly hear God’s call and the title of this post, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (verse 10), was Samuel’s response.

At that moment it occurred to me that maybe God was trying to tell me something more profound through getting let go from Rivals. Maybe he was telling me that the excuses I had for putting off being a deacon were not valid. Maybe I was turning my back on a higher calling. A big part of the decision to wait was because I knew that the reporter job was something I was only interested in doing for a handful of years. When those years were up, likely God would likely have already given my wife and I all of the children he wanted us to bring into the world. It seemed that all of the timing pointed to waiting that handful of years.

But now all of that has changed. Now I no longer have the distraction of the reporter job. Now, just after the reporter income had paid off the expensive camera I had bought for the job, God had provided a different thought. God provided the income to keep us out of debt, but is he now calling me to something else? Now, in the spring of 2007, when I had always told myself that the time would come to apply for the deaconate, God had cleared my biggest obstacle to being a deacon off of my plate.

I spent all of Sunday praying about this and frankly I am still confused and humbly awestruck at the path God has put before me to travel. While I don’t know where this path leads quite yet, I do know more than anything, that I need to use the remainder of Lent to walk that path and discern whether God is calling me to be a deacon.

I ask for your prayers to help me as I discern God’s will for my life.

Speak to me Lord, for your servant is listening.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Well it looks as though my time as a Cal reporter may be over.  I was let go from the team about a week ago.  I was told it was because of financial constraints and that there was a distinct possibility that they’ll bring me back on staff come football season, particularly if subscriptions to the site continue to rise (so please don’t dump your subscription to get back at them :) ).

While I’m definitely interested in the opportunity to get back on staff, I’m not that optimistic it’ll come true.  While I’m sure there was truth in the reason I was given, I also suspect there was more to it.  The publisher was always editing my articles more than I felt comfortable with (from the perspective of how he viewed the quality of my work) and because I don’t live in Berkeley my ability to follow leads not related to games or major press conferences was not that of other members on the staff.

The good news is that the material impact of this on me and my family is negligible.  I had always budgeted the income as “fun money” and the last paycheck I’ll receive will just about cover all of my expenditures I made for the job, including traveling to games like the USC game and the Holiday bowl in addition to the nice digital SLR camera and other equipment that I get to keep.  In fact, it is probably good news for my family because the strain of a second job was not trivial and to be honest the Bears games were not as fun to attend when I had the stress of both helping my wife taking care of my two toddler aged boys and making sure I was following every niche of the game as a reporter.

So where do I go from here?

I didn’t post about this right away because I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what my next move was.  Over the last week I have pondered opening my own Cal news site like Rivals or Scout, offering my services to one of the many news organizations in the area that might be interested in inexpensive reporter coverage of the Bears, just taking the effort that went into reporting and focus it on improving the blog, as well as a number of other alternatives.

I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.

I’m definitely still interesting in doing reporter work (and if you’re a publisher/editor who would be interested in my services please drop me a line at jobs AT  The reality is that I despite the compromises it took, I very much enjoyed the work.  That said, I’ve pretty much decided not to heavily pursue that avenue at this point and will let that job come to me if it is indeed meant to be.

I definitely intend on putting what effort I don’t put into a reporter job into improving the quality of the blog.  The reality is that this blog was a lot better before I got the reporter job in part because of frequently I posted and in part because of the quality of my posts.  In fact, it was the quality of the blog that got me the job.  Ever since I got the reporter job, the amount of effort I was able to put into the blog suffered both in quality and quantity.  I never felt comfortable providing the same analysis on the blog that I had already provided in an article that was only available to Rivals subscribers.  In addition, I just didn’t have the time to post frequently.  Without those limitations, expect to see the amount of Cal posting rise to the levels I had early in the 2006 season and 2005 season.  In fact, as I already posted, I have some improvements in the works and now expect to “double-down” on those.

Finally, amongst all of that pondering, another road for me to take hit me like a lightning bolt.  Since it is not Cal related I will put it in another post, one that will only be on the main portion of the blog (note to cal blog readers: click the link on the sidebar for ‘Main Blog Page’).

Opportunity to win a Tedford signed Calography

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Hopefully most of my Cal blog readers have been followers of since I started writing for them.  For those that haven’t, I wanted to make sure you heard about an opportunity to win a Calography, a picture diary of all of the 2007 football recruits for Cal, signed by Tedford.  I’ve got an unsigned one and it’s pretty darned cool.  To win it, you have to win the Pac-10 tournament predictor contest.  Go to to learn more about it and sign up.

You don’t need to be an existing member of Rivals to play, you just need to sign up for the 7-day trial.  Since the contest ends before the trial would, you could win it without paying for a subscription.  However, I would hope that once you’ve tried it, you’d want to keep the subscription.  It’s only $100 a year and you get all the news that doesn’t make the papers.


Great immigration interview with Archbishop Chaput

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Archbishop Chaput has always been an impressive Church leader in my opinion because of his balanced and practical approach.  This interview with him about immigration reform is another example of this.  Some great quotes that show his balance:

“We want a strong economy and a good standard of living, but we also don’t want to do a lot of the unpleasant jobs that help sustain that standard. So we live with a curious kind of schizophrenia. We need the “illegals,” but we also want to complain about them.”

“If Americans are angry about the immigration issue, it’s not because they’re instinctively bigoted. They’re frustrated and afraid, and too many of our public servants have failed us by not really leading with vision — in other words, by following their polls and ambitions, instead of their brains and consciences, to find a solution.”

“In Denver, we want to build a Church community that it is truly multiethnic and multiracial. That strikes me as a demand of discipleship. But unless we get serious national immigration reform soon, a sense of grievance will continue to grow among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics. In the long run, that could gravely wound the whole country.”

Please read the whole thing.